FLIGHT REVIEW: TOKYO to MANILA via ALL NIPPON AIRWAYS (PART 4 of 4)

When we flew in from Manila to Tokyo, we landed at Haneda Airport but for our trip back home, we departed from Narita International Airport but still with All Nippon Airways (ANA).

 
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN

Our group arrived at Narita's Terminal 1 three hours before our scheduled flight. Naturally, we headed straight to the ANA counters but were told that self-check-ins were mandatory.

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
It was easy enough to do the process but one of our group member's passport was being rejected by the machine. We must have spent considerable time at the kiosk that we were eventually led to the counters for the conventional check-in. Interestingly, our check-in baggage was never scanned.

Security check for our hand-carry came afterwards where I was asked to empty my half-filled water jug. I was allowed to drink the contents instead of emptying them into the bin. The officer watched me drink and insisted politely that I consume to the last drop. I gave out a refreshing "ahhh" after complying.

As we headed for immigration, I was stopped by an airport personnel who noticed my bulky passport stapled with tax-free receipts from my shopping. (Tourists are exempted from paying the 20% tax provided that they can show their passport.) The tax-free redemption counter was across immigration so it was not a hassle especially as I was the only one there. The officer just removed all the receipts and I was cleared by immigration. It was then that one of my friends realized that he still had his tax-free receipt with him after going through immigration. We went to the information counter for help and was advised to just surrender the receipt to them.

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Airports in Japan have a designated row of seats for senior citizens, pregnant women and people with disabilities.

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Boarding was on time but our departure was delayed for almost an hour "waiting for departure clearance." The captain later explained it was the air traffic in Narita and something about the baggage. I noticed that the welcome announcements were made in Japanese and Filipino but for the rest of the flight, it was in Japanese and English. 

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
I was assigned a middle seat but because the wife I was seated with wanted her husband to sit with her, I found myself with my preferred aisle seat. Better yet, it was in the front row with extra leg room at no extra cost.

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
My view---a sneak peek to the business class.

Upon boarding, each seat already had a wrapped blanket on it and of course the headset. While waiting for departure, the immigration and health forms were distributed. I then started chatting with the passenger seated beside me, something I never do but I noticed she was clutching a missions newsletter so I asked if she was a missionary. She smiled and said that she wasn't but that she supports missions which was why she was flying from Virginia to Manila.

We finally took off which was a bit bumpy with a promise of a bumpier flight ahead due to turbulence which didn't actually occur as often or as strong as I feared.

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
We were then given moist towels. The attendant gave me one and just placed another on my tray for my American friend who was already off to dreamland which prompted her to remark later, “It’s called out of sheer exhaustion.”

My throat started getting itchy and dry which made me cough a lot making me self-conscious as I didn't want people to think I was spreading germs. The Japanese wear masks not because they are sick but they do not want to catch any germs from other people. In the midst of my coughing, I was looking around checking if any passenger had started donning their mask.

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
I then turned my attention to pulling my TV screen but was unsuccessful. It made me feel stupid as all the other front row seaters were already enjoying their movies so I just let it go.

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Meal was a pleasant surprise with a choice of beef ribs and paella. I chose the latter and it was one of the tastiest paellas I have ever had that I consumed its entirety---something rare for me when it comes to airline food. Another passenger chose beef and then upon opening the foil, asked whether it was pork. When told what it was, she had it changed to paella.

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
I spent the rest of the flight writing this review and teaching my American friend some Filipino survival words and signs like "CR," "salamat po," and the hand signal for the bill. She found the last one fascinating. While she was filling out the customs form, she asked me what "balikbayan" meant. I told her she doesn't have to bother with that but I still explained it to her. I then remembered I wasn't offered the customs form so I requested for one which I found out later to be unnecessary as I did not have anything to declare.

After meals, the attendant started offering their duty-free items. 

Later, I requested for a cup of water but was told they have completely ran out of water even though we were just halfway through our flight. I was offered a substitute like soda and juice but I didn't feel like anything sweet for my dry, itchy throat. Minutes later, they made the rounds offering orange juice instead of the usual water but sometime later, I looked to my right and saw some passengers being served water so I asked again and they gave me a cup. Go figure.

Lights were suddenly dimmed and plastic toys like Pokemon were being offered to kids. 

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
I then asked for the help of an attendant with my TV screen which did not improve my experience as the selection was similar to my previous flight to Tokyo with additional unsatisfying titles. I settled for "Chef" but I got bored so I turned to my seat mate.

“You won’t be able to vote as you will be in the Philippines come election day,” I said.

“I voted before I left,” she explained. “Although I don’t like whom I voted for.”

“Well, like they say, we get the leaders that we deserve.”

“I think we’re getting worse than we deserve!”

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
There was a sign above me about Sky Live TV featuring CNN and other news networks but I was in no mood to watch the news.  Then came the call to prepare for our final hour signaling the attendants to start distributing mint candies.

When we flew from Manila, our trip took 3.5 hours but flying home took 45 minutes longer. It was an okay landing (not entirely smooth, with some bumps).

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
There were segregated local and foreign passport-holders at Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 and each set had several counters opened so the immigration process for me took less than 60 seconds. As usual, the wait at the baggage claim was a test of patience but not as usual, my luggage was one of the first to come out. I said my goodbyes to my tour mates and headed off to the Grab counter at Bay 4 but two drivers ignored my booking and there were no other takers. I then turned on my Uber app and in six minutes, my ride appeared and it was now back to reality.

This flight review is part of a four-part series. Please click here for Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

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